Bliss research: mental health and well-being of neonatal staff

BLISS 0008

The findings of our 2019 survey highlight the significant impact of the neonatal environment on the mental health and well-being of neonatal staff - and the inconsistent, and often inadequate, support available for those who need it.

We heard from 719 respondents who identified as working within UK neonatal services in the UK. Most were neonatal nurses (83%) and the majority worked in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (63%). This survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic.

We wanted to know if the neonatal environment affected the mental health affected the mental health and well-being of staff - and if so, how. We also wanted to know what support is available to neonatal professionals. This is what they told us.

Impact on mental health and well-being

Over half of respondents said their mental health deteriorated over the previous 12 months. Respondents working in settings without access to support were more likely to say their mental health had become worse, and less likely to say it stayed the same.


Felt frequently run down or ill


Experienced anxiety, and the same proportion reported compassion fatigue


Experienced flash backs and intrusive thoughts

Many different factors contributed to poor mental health and well-being in their workplace, but chronic staffing and resourcing issues were the most reported factor:

  • 87% felt understaffing negatively affected mental health and well-being, and 56% felt under-resourcing of their service was also a contributory factor.
  • 68% said unmanageable workload had an impact
  • 44% said dealing with traumatic events was a significant factor
  • Two-fifths felt poor working relationships and culture contributed to poor mental health and well-being

I have felt close to burn out and sought support from friends and family. I feel my mental health is ok but equally feel on the edge or burn out because of the intensity of the job.

Our findings show a workforce who are over-stretched and in desperate need of support - but too frequently that support just isn't available.

  • 73% of respondents had no access to trained mental health support from their workplace.
  • 98% of those without access to formal support felt it would be beneficial for at least some staff.
  • Only 27% of respondents could access support from a trained professional - but where these services existed 80% said access to services was excellent or good.

Respondents who were unable to access support from their workplace were much more likely to seek support from friends (65%) and family (61%) compared to those who could access these services (32% and 12% respectively).

Impact on neonatal services

Our findings suggest that ensuring staff are well supported and able to work in safe, well-resourced environments is important for ensuring neonatal services are sustainable and effective.

  • 55% of staff took time off over the previous 12 months due to the impact of the neonatal enviornment on their mental health and well-being.
  • Nearly half (48%) have considered leaving either their workplace, or neonatal services altogether, due to the impact of the neonatal environment on their mental health and wellbeing.

57% of staff

working in settings without access to support had taken some form of leave from work.

Annual leave

was most frequently used due to take time off due to staff concerns about their sickness record.

I feel I take a lot of stress and anxiety home with me, which has an impact on my personal life. I find it hard to talk to management as it may be seen as inability to do my job right.